The Housing and Urbanism programme applies architecture to the challenges of contemporary urban strategies. Today’s metropolitan regions show tremendous diversity and complexity with significant global shifts in the patterns of urban growth and decline. Architecture has a central role to play in this dynamic context, developing far-reaching strategies and generating novel urban clusters. This course focuses on important changes in the contemporary urban condition and investigates how architectural intelligence helps us to understand and respond to these trends. Offering a 12-month MA and a 16-month MArch, the course is balanced between cross-disciplinary research and design application. The work is divided among three equally important areas: design workshops; lectures and seminars; and a written thesis for the MA or a design project for the MArch, which allow students to develop an extended and focused study within the broader themes of the course.
Lecture Courses and Seminars
(Terms 1, 2 and 3)
The Design Workshop is the core course of the programme, providing a framework for linking design investigation to a politically and historically informed approach to issues of contemporary urbanism. It has two components. One is the Group Workshop in which students and tutors form small teams working to explore and develop design responses to well-defined urban challenges. The other component is the Urban Seminar, which opens up a debate on different approaches to key themes in the programme’s areas of research, with presentations by both students and visiting scholars and practitioners. The course consists of individual and group projects, and students present both design and written work. While each of the Group Workshop teams will pursue distinct lines of investigation, the Urban Seminar and individual work gives the opportunity to evaluate andreflect upon different approaches to key issues within urbanism today. The programme places particular emphasis upon the urban inner periphery, where the complexity of the urban process is plainly visible, and our project work in the Design Workshop reflects this emphasis. Each team will define the balance and integration of architectural, social and political concepts that drive its work, giving each project a distinctive style and character. Our main site for design investigation will be an inner-peripheral area of London. We will engage with the urban process of this site within the larger framework of London and of its metropolitan region. We will also have an intensive design workshop outside the UK, which gives us the opportunity to collaborate with other urbanism programmes and city governments, testing our design and conceptual approaches in a different context.
Cities in a Transnational World
This course explores the social and economic context of housing and urbanism as it interacts with the formulation and implementation of strategies of urban development and with the reshaping of the role of architects and planners in the making of cities. It offers a comparative analysis of the restructuring of cities in the context of the current stage of internationalisation of the world economy, placing strong emphasis on issues of policy and planning, and on current reforms in systems of urban governance.
The Reason of Urbanism
(Term 1)This lecture and discussion series provides the foundations for an engagement with the urban as a ‘problemfield’ in western governmental reasoning. The course will trace the twentieth-century development of urbanism to highlight the inherent political issues and will also develop a theoretical perspective through an engagement with the work of Arendt, Foucault, Sennett and others. Through this perspective students will investigate the relationship of key political concepts to the generation of new urban spatialities.
(Terms 1 and 2)
This course will explore the role of urbanism as an instrument of diagnosis and critique. Beginning with lectures and readings in Term 1 and building towards a seminar format in Term 2, the course explores the ways architecture has generated a range of critical and reflexive responses to the city over the last four decades. Emphasis will be placed on developing students’ facility with the critical analysis of contemporary urban projects, while background readings will include Koolhaas, Rowe, Rossi, Eisenman, Tschumi and others.
Shaping the Modern City
(Terms 1 and 2)
This course explores the various national and local strategies evolved by the state to meet the challenge of urban expansion during the twentieth century. Rather than presenting a continuous narrative history, the lectures and seminars will look at key events, projects and texts that illustrate contemporary responses to the opportunities and problems created by growth. The course will focus on post- 1945 housing and planning in a number of European and US cities, offering a vantage point from which to consider critical issues such as density, regeneration, mixed use and new working and living patterns. It will also review the development of ideas about housing form and production.
Housing and the Informal City
This course uses housing as a strategic vehicle for investigating the evolution of ideas and approaches to the informal and irregular processes of city making. In particular, it reviews critically the growing de-spatialisation of strategies to deal with urban informality and the social condition associated with it, and explores the role of urbanism and spatial design in addressing those conditions. It draws from the extreme circumstances of irregularity and sociospatial segregation of the cities in the developing world. With reference to relevant projects and programmes, it attempts to identify appropriate tools and instruments of spatial intervention and design and to examine their articulation with the redesigning of urban institutions and rules.
This seminar series explores trends in contemporary multi-residential housing against the background of a discursive formation linking together domesticity and urbanism. Taking Mies van der Rohe’s patio houses of the 1930s and Karel Teige’s 1932 critique of the minimum dwelling as opening counterpoints, this course develops students’ understandings of type and diagram in the pursuit of fresh approaches to urban living. Core readings for the essay include theoretical and historical writings of Michel Foucault, Jacques Donzelot and Nikolas Rose.
This seminar is organised around the students’ work towards their written or design thesis. It provides a forum for students to discuss work in progress with members of staff and invited critics, and to comment on each other’s work. Other Events We will make a study trip to a European city in order to develop comparative research. We will invite a number of academics and practitioners from all over the world to contribute to the programme during the year. Students are also encouraged to attend complementary courses offered by other programmes in the AA.
Jorge Fiori is a sociologist and urban planner. He studied in Chile and has worked in academic institutions there and in Brazil and England. He is a visiting lecturer at several Latin American and European universities, and consultant to a number of international urban development agencies. He researches and publishes on housing and urban development, with particular focus on the interplay of spatial strategies and urban social policy.
Hugo Hinsley is an architect with expertise in urban development projects, housing design and communityled co-developments. He has been a consultant to many projects in Europe, Australia and the US. He is a member of the research committee of Europan, and has taught, lectured and published internationally. Recent research includes London’s design and planning, particularly in Docklands and Spitalfields; urban policy and structure in European cities; and rethinking density for housing and urban development.
Lawrence Barth lectures on urbanism and political theory, and has written on the themes of politics and critical theory in relation to the urban. He practises as a consultant urbanist to architects and city governments on large-scale strategic projects, and is engaged in research on urban intensification and innovation environments.
Nicholas Bullock studied architecture at Cambridge University where he completed a PhD. His research work includes issues of housing reform with a special interest in German postwar housing design and policy; and the architecture and planning of postwar reconstruction.
Elad Eisenstein is an Associate Director at Arup and the leader for urban design and masterplanning for the UK, Middle East and Africa. He joined Arup in 2005 after completing his masters degree in Housing & Urbanism at the AA. He has experience in a wide range of projects and has lectured internationally on urban design and sustainable urbanism.
Kathryn Firth is Chief of Design at the Olympic Park Legacy Company in London where she is leading the masterplanning and urban design of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. She has been involved in both design work and research projects and lectures internationally on issues of urbanism and urban design. She has taught in the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics, the GSD at Harvard University, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Toronto.
Anderson Inge is a practising architect who has completed additional training in structural engineering (at MIT) and sculpture (at St Martins). He also teaches at the Rural Studio and Royal College of Art (sculpture).
Dominic Papa is an architect and urban designer involved in practice, teaching and research. He is a founding partner of the practice s333 Studio for Architecture and Urbanism, which has won awards for projects across Europe. He is a design review panel member for CABE and the West Midlands, and has been a jury member for a number of international competitions.
Elena Pascolo is an architect and urbanist who has trained and worked in London and South Africa on large housing and urban regeneration projects. She recently cofounded Urban Projects Bureau. Her research focuses on the development of spatial tools that structure complex urban strategies and the role of institutions in promoting urban transformation. She is a member of the AA research cluster, The Architecture of the Informal City.
Alex Warnock-Smith is an architect and urban designer. His work is concerned with the relationship between social experience and urban space. He is co-founder of Urban Projects Bureau. UPB were recently selected by the British Council as one of 10 teams to exhibit at the British Pavilion for the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale 2012. He has lectured and written internationally on issues of urban development, social justice and current affairs.
MA Housing & Urbanism (12 months) Second Class or above Honours Degree in architecture or a related discipline from a British university, or an overseas qualification of equivalent standard (from a course no less than three years in a university or educational institution of university rank).
MArch Housing & Urbanism (16 months) Five-year Professional Degree or Diploma in architecture or other related discipline.